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10 SEO Myths to Leave Behind in 2020

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To say SEO has “changed a lot” would be the understatement of the decade. We’ll often see multiple updates per year from Google, like the BERT update in October aimed at helping the search engine better interpret natural language searches. Or the site diversity update in June, which focused on reducing duplicate organic listings on SERPs for the same site.

As a result of these constant modifications, marketers are faced with the challenge of educating themselves about each update, adapting their SEO strategy accordingly, and solving for any reduction in organic traffic.

Sounds like a lot of work? Well, truthfully, maintaining an effective SEO strategy does require a close eye and a commitment to quality. And because SEO has changed so much in the past several years, many marketers aren’t sure what’s outdated, what’s important, what will actually move the needle, and what’s simply wasted effort.

This guide is going to point out all of the most common myths and assumptions about how SEO works and debunk them for you, so you’re not wasting a single moment on things that simply don’t matter for SEO in 2020.

1. “I must submit my site to Google”

The idea that you need to submit your website to Google in order to appear in search results (or rank) is nonsense. Google finds content on its own by leveraging bots – as known as “web crawlers” – that are constantly searching the web for content to index.

However, if you’re making changes to existing website pages or creating news ones, you can submit an updated sitemap of your website to Google to help its crawlers find your content faster.

Want to check to see if your site is currently indexed? Simply do a site search for your URL, like this: site:hubspot.com

2. “More links are better than more content”

In the past, building as many links as possible without analyzing the linking domain was how SEO typically worked. By doing this, your website was sure to rank higher.

Today, building links is still a very important part of ranking factors. That’s because a link to another website is more than just a link — it’s a vote of confidence, a recommendation, a way for publishers to say to their readers: “Here’s a source I trust. Go check it out yourself.”

That being said, it’s important to focus on the quality of links you are obtaining, rather than just the quantity. Sometimes less can be more if you know how exactly to build links the proper way. You can learn more about how to earn backlinks in my upcoming articles.

If you’re deciding between an investment in link building vs. content creation, remember: one of the number one ways to generate quality backlinks is to start by creating quality content.

3. “Keywords matter more than anything”

Amplified by the rise of mobile and voice search, search queries have become more and more conversational. And Google’s updates over the past 2-3 years have focused on understanding these types of queries better through natural language processing, most notably with the rollout of Hummingbird in 2013.

The introduction of this new search algorithm, which began analyzing phrases instead relying on keywords alone, marked a major switch for the search giant from keyword to topic-focused SEO.
The takeaway here for marketers? The traditional view of “keywords” in search has changed.
Where a few years ago there were maybe 10-20 “big keywords” that would be sought after for ranking within a topic, there are now hundreds or thousands of long-tail variations that are regularly searched within a topic and change based on location.

«Simply dominating a few words is no longer enough to produce successful results» — says Taras Malberg, CMO at SpySERP.

Instead of obsessing over keywords, I recommend marketers explore a topic cluster strategy. This approach to content creation is centered around the reader, helping them discover the content they are searching for, regardless of the exact keywords they use.

4. “Having a secure (HTTPS encrypted) site isn’t important for SEO”

Have you ever noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others start with “https://”? Perhaps you noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online.

To put it simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms. At the time, this meant that if your website still relied on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result.

Then, in October of 2017, Google released a new version of their popular Chrome browser, version 62.

At this time, it warned users that if their page contained a form but did not have SSL-enabled, visitors would see a “not secure” label alongside the URL. This label began to roll out in July of 2018.
From an SEO perspective, Google has publicly stated that two websites which are otherwise equal in search results, if one has SSL enabled it may receive a slightly rank boost to outweigh the other.
Not to mention, up to 85% of people stated that they will not continue browsing if a site is not secure, according to a recent survey from Kubas Labs.

As a result, there is a clear SEO benefit to enabling-SSL on your website, and across all of your content.

5. “You shouldn’t link out to other websites”

Provide value. When you’re creating content for the web, this should be the motivation behind it. And if that means linking out to a website other than your own to provide additional information, there’s nothing to be worried about.

“If you’re linking out naturally from your website to other sites that offer additional value and more context, then that’s fine. And there’s nothing special that you need to do,” explains Google Webmaster John Mueller.

There are a few exceptions, though. If you link out to a website in exchange for a link back, link to an advertisement, or link out in your comments, that link is typically not as contextual or valuable as one that occurs naturally. In these situations, Mueller encourages the use of the rel=”nofollow”link attribute.

6. “Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings”

Meta descriptions — the short page descriptions that appear under the title in search results – don’t serve as an official ranking factor for search engines. However, these descriptions can influence whether or not your page is clicked on — therefore, it’s just as important when doing on-page SEO.
Meta descriptions can also be copied over to social media when your content is shared, so it can encourage clickthroughs from there, too.

Here’s what makes for a good meta description:

  • Keep it under 160 characters, although Google has been known to allow longer meta descriptions — up to 220 characters. (Note: Mobile devices cut off meta descriptions at 120 characters.)
  • Include your entire keyword or keyword phrase.

7. “Pop-ups will always hurt my ranking in search”

As inbound marketers, I care about creating lovable experiences for our website visitors – and, at the same time, I also want to generate leads for our sales teams. To help generate these leads, many marketers have put pop-up forms on their website pages. (After all, pop-ups work.) But the misuse of popups has led to a lot of controversy over whether marketers really should use them.

Even Google had to weigh in on it all by announcing in August 2016 that they would begin to penalize websites that use what they call “intrusive interstitials.” (I call these “crappy pop-ups.”) This penalty eventually rolled out in January of 2017.

For marketers, the key word here is “intrusive.” Google doesn’t penalize all pop-ups — just the ones that get in the way of a user’s ability to easily access the content on the page when they search on mobile.

For example, pop-ups that a mobile user has to dismiss before being able to access the main content of the page will get you in trouble with Google. On the other hand, pop-ups (including banners and slide-ins) that use a reasonable amount of screen space and don’t disrupt the mobile user experience are just fine.

When they’re used in a way that’s helpful instead of disruptive, pop-ups can be a healthy part of your inbound strategy. Be sure yours offer something valuable and relevant to the people visiting that particular site page, and fit them seamlessly into the context of what your users are doing already so as not to sacrifice user experience.

8. “SEO is just something I should pass off to IT”

While search engine optimization can get pretty technical, it isn’t something you want to hand off to your IT department and forget about.

Today, designing an effective SEO strategy means having a team or DRI in place that is prepared to handle not only the technical aspects, but also the content development, link building, internal training, editorial calendar development, and more.

9. “You can only have one H1 per page”

First, let’s start by understanding why headings are useful for Google. To do so, we’re going straight to the source: “We use headings to better understand the context of different parts of a page,” explains Google WebMaster Trends Analyst John Mueller.

When asked about the SEO implications of multiple H1s, Mueller went on to offer this advice:
“Think about your users. If you have ways of making your content accessible to them, be it by using multiple H1headings or other standard HTML constructs, then that’s not going to get in the way of your SEO efforts.”

10. “My homepage needs a lot of content”

Have you ever come across a homepage littered with copy? Or, on the opposite spectrum, a homepage with barely any content at all?

Think of your homepage as the gateway to your business. Visualize it.

This is your chance to make a first impression and convey what you’re all about. Maybe your value proposition is simplicity – in that case, just a single login makes sense.

For most marketers, however, there is a need for a bit more content and context than that.
Your homepage content should be long enough to clarify who you are, what you do, where you’re located (if you’re local), your value proposition, and what visitors should do next.
These visitors should leave satisfied, not overwhelmed or underwhelmed – and certainly not confused.
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